Drifting. Weightless. With her eyes closed and arms floating in the vacuum of space all her cares seemed so far away. The demands of command evaporated and for long, precious moments nothing else seemed to matter.
"The repairs in this section are almost complete."
Kathryn snorted softly and opened her eyes, concentrating on the matter at hand. Nothing except these damned micro-fractures.
"It is fortunate Voyager encountered the ion storm in this region of space."
Seven’s voice sounded tinny over the internal comm link of the EVA suit, but Kathryn had to agree. "You’re right. We really took a beating and the last thing we need is fighting off hostile aliens right now."
Janeway drifted slightly to her left to tackle another crack before it became a hull breach. The bulky gloves made it difficult to hold the iso-modulator and she mumbled a curse as she lost her grip and the tool spun slowly. Kathryn reached out and seized it by the pistol grip.
"These suits are inefficient. As a Borg drone I could have worked without the need."
"It’s just the design of the iso-modulator. Mister Paris compared them to an ancient device called a ‘hot glue gun’ only with a much longer, pointier tip. Maybe when we finish you could design something more user friendly."
"I will see to it."
Kathryn smiled knowing that Seven wouldn’t forget this conversation, as incidental as it seemed. She could see Seven coming to her in a few days announcing she had created the perfect implement for repairing hull ablation. Her utter brilliance was one of the reasons she found the young woman so fascinating. Of course intelligence had nothing to do with how beautiful Kathryn found her.
Janeway’s hands slowed, repairing another fracture, but in her mind’s eye it was Seven’s body she envisioned exploring. She hungered to feel the warmth of her skin; to see that long neck arched back as Seven was overwhelmed with passion for the first time.
"Captain, why are you here?"
Kathryn took a startled sip of air, believing for an irrational moment Seven had known what she was thinking. Excuse me?"
"Why are you making these repairs? Surely there are other members of the crew that should be working here instead."
"You mean because I’m the captain and my place is on the bridge."
"Well, it’s not like there’s a lot to do there at the moment. Crews have been working around the clock to repair the hull so I thought I’d pitch in." At the moment Seven and Janeway were the only two outside the ship but it was only because the rest of engineering had been working double and triple shifts to make the repairs.
"It feels good to help out once in a while, to get my hands dirty."
"I do not understand. Your hands are protected by the environmental suit. They cannot become soiled."
"It’s just an expression, Seven." Kathryn smiled at the confusion in the blue gaze. She was about to elaborate when the comm system in her suit squelched to life.
"Captain, this is Chakotay." There was a sense of urgency to his voice and Kathryn wondered why he had bothered to identify himself before he told her what the problem was. She would have recognized his voice.
"What is it, Commander?"
"We’re detecting an overload building in the main deflector. There must have been some damage we weren’t able to detect earlier."
"Captain, we must get off the hull."
"No time," the commander’s voice shouted in Janeway’s ear. "We’re going to transport you back."
The captain’s eyes went wide but before she could protest Seven stepped in. "Commander, you cannot. The two forms of energy are incompatible. It could generate a massive disruption."
You mean explosion , Kathryn thought. Even as Chakotay instructed her to prepare for transport she heard the deflector overload. Electromagnetic energy coursed along the hull in a wave directly toward them. Janeway released the iso-modulator and reached for her wrist controls.
"Seven, disengage your magnetic lock. Push away from the hull!"
Before they could get away from the vessel Janeway felt the tingles of the transporter grab hold. The electromagnetic energy pulse hit her left foot at the same instant and her universe exploded violently in a brilliant burst of white. Captain Janeway cried out sharply as pain tore through every cell of her body. Distantly she heard screaming. She hadn’t even considered that Seven of Nine could scream.
Slowly Kathryn opened her eyes and clenched them closed against the harsh overhead lights. Sickbay. She had been here enough times to recognize the ceiling in a single glance. It felt like only seconds since the incident on the hull, yet the cold air brushing against naked shoulders told her it had been slightly longer than that.
She became aware of the doctor’s voice, speaking softly a few feet away. No doubt he was filling the commander in on their physical condition. Just thinking of the man caused an unexpected surge of rage and increased her headache exponentially. She focused on the physician’s words in an effort to block the pain.
"…burns to over forty percent of her body and an electro-chemical imbalance in her brain that I’ve yet to find the source of."
"Doctor." Kathryn struggled to rise, holding the sheet modestly against her chest.
"Don’t try to sit up."
The EMH stepped up on one side of her and Chakotay on the other. Fortunately the first officer didn’t encroach in her personal space since Kathryn could have cheerfully throttled him in that moment.
"You’re going to be fine, Captain. I’ve treated your injuries and you really should get some rest now." The doctor patted her hand in what she assumed was supposed to be a reassuring manner.
Something was wrong.
The doctor was renowned for his lack of a bedside manner and never, ever patted a patient’s hand. Then there was the profoundly grief stricken look on his face. Since she was obviously alive there was no reason for such an expression unless…
"Seven?" Her whispered question was a plea. She started to sit up, barely aware when the sheet began to slip.
"I am here."
Janeway let out a sigh and lay back. On the heels of her relief the doctor began to speak, tearing her personal world asunder and confusing the hell out of her.
"I’m sorry, Captain. The detonation depolarized Seven’s cybernetic systems. She didn’t make it."
"No, that’s not true. I just heard her."
"What?" The EMH looked confused and then shook his head. "Believe me, no one wishes she was here more than I. It’s simply not true."
Kathryn wondered if this was some kind of sick joke, maybe the doctor was tinkering with his subroutines once again and trying to instill humor into his personality. If that was the case it definitely wasn’t working. She felt a growing sense of anxiety and clamped down on the emotion, needing a clear head to find out what was going on. "Doctor, this isn’t funny. Seven just said she was right here."
The EMH wordlessly exchanged a look with Commander Chakotay before he stepped out of the captain’s line of sight. Behind him was the only other occupant of the medical bay, lying on an adjacent bio-bed. It was Seven of Nine and she most definitely was not conscious.
"No. The doctor is mistaken. I have not perished."
"Didn’t you hear that?"
"Hear what, Captain?" Chakotay asked, nervously rubbing a thumb over his eyebrow before he looked to the doctor. "Is it some kind of auditory hallucination?"
The EMH frowned at the man. "And they say I have a lousy bedside manner." He immediately turned to Janeway in an attempt to make her see the truth. "I assure you, Captain. You’re mistaken. Seven’s body is on full life support, but there is no brain wave activity."
"Captain?" Seven’s voice, filled with horrified realization, drew her attention more fully than the doctor’s endless droning.
"What is it, Seven?"
She was distantly aware of the others looking at her like she’d lost her mind but suddenly had more immediate concerns. Without volition her hands rose and her gaze turned downward. She was looking at her own hands but she wasn’t controlling her actions. Her gaze shifted, rising to meet the doctor’s look of concern. Then she spoke. The voice was hers but the inflections were those of Seven of Nine.
"I am here, Doctor. My mind appears to have been transferred into the captain’s consciousness."
The doctor blinked. Then he opened his mouth to speak, sputtered helplessly and closed it again in defeat. Again the doctor and Chakotay exchanged a look and Janeway could see the suspicion growing that she had well and truly lost it. Unwilling to remain in this perpetual dialog on who was or wasn’t present, she took control of her body. Considering how stubborn she knew Seven to be, it was surprisingly easy.
"Doctor, please focus. I’m sure you have equipment that can verify there are two separate brain patterns present. What about the scanner you used when Seven’s suppressed personalities emerged?"
"Huh? Oh! Yes of course," he mumbled with a visible start. The physician disappeared into the medical lab and returned a few moments later, wheeling the equipment.
For the brief time he was out of the room Chakotay stood silently against the wall. He appeared uncomfortable, staring at the floor and chewing the inside of his cheek. Even the tips of his ears were more red than usual. She felt anger crawl through her belly as she remembered he was responsible for Seven’s condition. She’d be well within her rights as captain if she spaced him for his actions.
Kathryn flinched and looked over at Seven’s reclining form, expecting her to be awake. She wasn’t and Kathryn wondered if she had imagined the remark.
The doctor returned and began sticking electrodes all over the captain’s skull. He was so fixated Kathryn was surprised he didn’t stick one on her nose. Finally he finished and stepped back to switch on the scanner.
For many long moments he stood and gazed at the readout, rubbing his chin between thumb and forefinger. "Hmm…. Uh huh."
"I’m sorry, Captain. This is just so fascinating."
Chakotay finally gathered himself and spoke up. "I’m sure it is, but what’s the bottom line?"
"Well, she’s right. There are two distinctive brain patterns here. This is wonderful news. Now we simply need to figure out how to put Seven back where she belongs."
Kathryn felt Seven becoming excited at the idea. Exactly how she knew that’s what the woman was feeling she couldn’t say. It was a sense of intense relief that she couldn’t put into words.
"Where do we start? No offense, Seven, but it’s enough just having one of me in here."
No offense, taken, Captain. I prefer inhabiting my own form as well.
Janeway smiled at Seven’s dry teasing. "Well, Doctor?"
"I’m sorry. I have no idea where to start."
The room plunged into darkness and she settled against the sheets, hoping sleep would come quickly.
I must apologize. I sense I made you uncomfortable.
Kathryn sighed and opened her eyes. "It’s not your fault; it’s mine. I only meant to show you how enjoyable bathing can be and things got out of hand. I should be the one to apologize."
I was not disturbed by your arousal, Kathryn, merely confused.
Why you stopped. Clearly you intended to seek self-gratification but chose instead to deny yourself a physical release.
God, really? Kathryn felt her face flaming at the internal dialogue and sought to put a decisive end to it. "Seven, masturbating is intensely private and not something to be done in front of others."
Do you masturbate often?
Kathryn frowned, sensing more than polite interest behind the question but embarrassment blinded her to it for the moment. "I am human, Seven, not just a rank."
The dawning anger seemed to get through where nothing else had. Of course, Kathryn.
Seven was quiet after that and Kathryn finally began to relax, seeking the peaceful oblivion of sleep.
Some time later she awakened to the feel of hands caressing her body. She was still half asleep, but rising ardor suffused her body. Her legs parted instinctively as the hands slid lower. They hesitated on her abdomen and Kathryn awakened abruptly, realizing that Seven was controlling her actions that she was very wet.
"Seven, what are you doing?" Her voice was shaky, not nearly as demanding as it had sounded in her head.
I didn’t mean to awaken you, Kathryn. I was merely curious about this form.
Your presence is quite powerful, Captain. So much so that it is difficult to believe how small and … perfect… your physical form is.
Kathryn should have been outraged by her officer’s actions. Instead she found she was fixated on one small, breathless word. "You think I’m perfect?"
She felt Seven’s conflicting emotions and the young woman didn’t answer directly. "Kathryn, when you became aroused earlier you pointed out that you are a woman as well as a rank?"
"Yes?" Her face was growing warm once again and she wondered if she should shut down this line of questioning now.
"As I touched you just now, I felt you growing excited once again."
"Seven, do you have a point?" Kathryn asked through clenched teeth.
"You are a passionate woman and have been engaged twice before. Why then are you alone now?"
Is that what this was about? The embarrassment ebbed as Kathryn tried to answer a sincere question from a concerned friend. "I’m the captain."
She allowed Seven to sift through the emotional resonances from a seemingly simple answer. Kathryn knew the moment the young woman gained comprehension and the instant it was quickly discarded.
"And is that compensation enough to turn away from passionate kisses?"
Kathryn was swamped in a memory of a particularly passionate encounter with a former fiancé. Lips were open, consuming; tongues dancing. Sweaty naked bodies slithered together and she gasped at the sensations. Just as quickly Kathryn remembered Seven was causing her to remember and watching now. Seven could also feel the intensity of an encounter that wasn’t hers.
Janeway was mortified at the sheen of perspiration on her skin and the moisture between her legs. "Seven stop."
"Is the loneliness you must endure payment enough to never feel the touch of a lover?"
More memories bombarded her; a blonde head between her legs as she cried out in orgasm; someone hard beneath her questing hands, ready to come at the touch of her lips.
"Seven, I said that’s enough!"
Anger surged fast and strong, easily wiping away any memories of past pleasures. "Have you ever even heard of boundaries? My mind is not some data core you can sift through on a whim!"
"I’m sorry, I did not mean…"
"To what? Satisfy your puerile curiosity? My past relationships are none of your business!"
Kathryn felt the hurt her words caused but was too angry to care. Of all the people to invade her privacy in such a way she never thought it would be Seven.
Captain Janeway sat quietly in her ready room sipping coffee. She tried to pretend it was just a normal day in the delta quadrant. Seven had been curiously silent this morning, enhancing the illusion. Since Kathryn railed against her for the breach of privacy the night before she had said very little. Kathryn still felt her there, shifting around occasionally and trying not to intrude.
Her combage chirped; a welcome relief from the guilt prompting her to apologize for her harshness. "Janeway here."
"Captain, I’m pleased to inform you that Lieutenant Torres and I have made progress and have a way to transfer Seven’s mind back into her body."
"That’s good news, Doctor. What does the treatment entail?"
"Well, it’s really more of a procedure…."
"Doctor," Janeway said in her best warning tone. She could feel Seven hovering eagerly in the background.
"You and Seven must be linked through the Borg alcoves. EKG electrodes will provide the conduit to precipitate the actual transfer."
It sounded way too easy. Sure enough, Seven piped up to point out the obvious. "Captain…Kathryn…you will not be able to link to an alcove as the doctor puts it. You don’t have receptors in your lower lumbar to enable regeneration.
"Seven tells me that’s going to be a little difficult since I lack the necessary equipment."
"Lieutenant Torres is working on an interface to allow you to make the connection. It will be vital for both of you to be in a regenerative state. Seven’s nanoprobes will detect her brain chemistry in your mind and enable the transfer through the electrodes."
"You make it all sound very easy, Doctor."
"Let me assure you it isn’t. I could provide you with all the technical details….Well, actually I can’t. But I’m sure B’Elanna…."
"Doctor, please. Just tell me what time to be in the cargo bay."
"I’m afraid it’ll be several hours, Captain. In addition to the interface device there’s the small matter of getting a second Borg alcove operational again."
"Fine. We’ll be waiting for your call. Janeway out."
Kathryn sat quietly thinking about all that had happened the last few days. She looked forward to having her thoughts to herself again but in a way she would miss Seven being in her mind. The unexpected joining had given her a unique insight into the young woman’s thoughts. She’d felt the hurt Chakotay’s suspicions caused Seven and longed to take that pain away.
Forget about him, Kathryn. It is no longer important.
Kathryn smiled as Seven spoke in her mind. "Where have you been hiding?"
I was afraid you no longer wished to speak with me.
It was surprising how easily Kathryn could sense Seven’s feeling along with the words now. There was fear threaded throughout the admission. "Seven, you’re the only one I can count on to tell me the truth, no matter how much I don’t want to hear it. But I have to ask, why the intense curiosity about my sex life?"
For a moment there was silence. Kathryn wondered if Seven was trying to sort her thoughts.
Although you are no longer my teacher I have continued to look to you for guidance. In this instance I wished for you to learn.
"To learn what, exactly?"
That you need not confine yourself to an empty existence simply because you are captain.
"My life is far from empty," Kathryn argued quietly.
True, merely without passion.
She was shocked into silence but before Kathryn could respond Seven continued. Is there no one on this vessel that calls to your heart?
Kathryn quickly clamped down on the mental image yearning to burst forth. She was learning to better control her responses. "Who should I be interested in?"
She frowned at the question. "No, of course not. He’s just a friend. At least he used to be. After this latest incident I’m not even sure of that."
Perhaps Lieutenant Commander Tuvok?
Janeway’s lips lifted in a small smile. "You’ve got to be joking."
She felt humor touch Seven’s thoughts. Neelix?
Kathryn burst into a startled laugh. "Now I know you’re pulling my leg."
Seven’s question became quieter, more serious. If none of them, have you ever considered a same gender romantic affiliation?
"Have I ever…thought about a relationship with another woman?" Kathryn squeaked.
They were on dangerous ground. "Seven, I don’t think we should be having this discussion."
Then you have. Who was it?
Taking a deep breath, she took the plunge. Seven would have known if she was lying anyway. "B’Elanna. But that was a long time ago. I don’t feel like that about her now."
No one since?
"Seven, please. It’s very personal and I don’t want to talk about it. Do you mind if I try to get some work done?"
She could sense Seven hesitate and expected to have her mind probed at any second. Fortunately, the lecture about privacy must have done some good. Seven relented and Janeway settled back to work. She would have worked straight through her shift if not for her new mental roommate. Seven had been quiet since morning, but midway through the day nagged Janeway until she stopped for a quick lunch.
You must take care of yourself, Kathryn.
The concern warmed her through and Kathryn had to admit she did feel more energized after the break. In addition to the normal departmental reports, she had traced Commander Chakotay’s movements the last few weeks. She found nothing to confirm his actions involving the accident had been deliberate, but neither could she rule it out. In the end she could only conclude that she could no longer implicitly trust him.
"Seven, you said Commander Chakotay didn’t like you. What did you mean?"
Rather than answer with words Seven opened her own memories to the captain. Being on the receiving end was the most intimate thing Kathryn had ever experienced. She felt all of Seven’s emotions. It was an image of B’Elanna speaking with Seven, from when she’d first come aboard Voyager from what Kathryn could gather.
The engineer took great pleasure in saying, "Chakotay says you’re only on board because Janeway likes dogs."
"Dogs?" Seven questioned, not comprehending.
"He said the captain had a dog at home and you were just another stray cur."
Seven had concealed her feelings well, but Janeway felt the sting. Other images flashed through her mind; Chakotay sneering at Seven when he thought she wasn’t looking; the ill-concealed smirk after the accident in sickbay when the doctor had announced her death. Right behind it was the flash of irritation when they learned Seven had not died.
Explain." Kathryn wasn’t happy to realize she had parroted Seven’s internal demand and took a deep breath before trying again. "Surely a Vulcan mind meld like Tuvok did with Seven?"
"I’m afraid that won’t work. Seven was suffering from repressed personalities. We need to find a way to transfer her back into her own body."
A flitting image of the doctor’s subroutines being decompiled flashed across her mind and made Janeway bite down on her lip to keep from smiling. "I understand. Make this your top priority. You have my authorization to utilize whatever personnel you require."
"In the meantime I’ll be on the bridge. Or should I say we?" Part of her couldn’t help but find the situation humorous and she wondered if that was a raspberry Seven just blew at her from the quiet confines of her own mind.
"Captain, I really must protest. I need to keep you here so I can run scans; try to formulate a course of treatment."
"The doctor’s right." Commander Chakotay stepped forward, fully meeting her gaze for what felt like the first time since she’d regained consciousness. "After all, you’re not exactly yourself at the moment."
His attempt at humor seemed patently insincere. Kathryn felt the resurgence of barely contained rage and realized she was sensing Seven’s emotions. She was shocked at the depth of the anger, but her own emotions combined to nearly overwhelm her.
Commander Chakotay does not trust me, he never has. He believes I will cause you to become a threat to Voyager.
"Doctor, a little privacy please?"
One look at the captain’s face convinced the EMH that he was safer off inside his office. "Please don’t leave without consulting me, Captain." Then he was gone.
"Commander, I realize that circumstances are unusual but regardless who else is in here with me, I am still the captain of this ship."
"Of course…" he began in a falsely solicitous voice.
"As you were, Commander. I will thank you not to interrupt me again. Your actions while Seven and I were outside this vessel were reckless and ill-advised. Any second year cadet would have known the two forms of energy from the deflector and the transporters were incompatible."
"I really thought we could get you out of there before the deflector overloaded."
"We? You mean you weren’t operating the controls from Ensign Kim’s station?"
His flush was answer enough. If the roles had been reversed Kathryn would have taken over Harry’s board to engage the controls herself. Too much time would be wasted giving orders and waiting for a crewman to react.
"Commander, I’m not sure if you’re completely thoughtless or just stupid."
"Captain…" he began in outrage.
"Did you even consider that Seven and I could have pushed away from the hull and waited for the discharge to dissipate?"
His eyes encountered the floor and he studied it intently. "No ma’am."
"Consider yourself on report, Commander, for endangering lives. And Chakotay…if I find out your actions were deliberate and with any kind of hidden agenda you will no longer be first officer on this ship. Is that clear?"
Although clearly furious, he thought better of speaking and only nodded.
After he left Janeway took a moment to compose herself. She hadn’t been that angry with him since Chakotay defied her orders when making the alliance with the Borg against species 8472. Then she remembered how phony he sounded only a few moments ago when trying to reassure her. Kathryn had never considered him less than sincere before; always thought of him as a man of honor.
"Seven are you still there?" she asked in a whisper.
I am here, Captain. Since we are one mind I believe I will hear your thoughts without the need to speak aloud.
"Oh." Still she couldn’t quite bring herself to have a dialog that was completely internal. "Was that your contribution? Recognizing that the commander didn’t mean what he said?"
My apologies. Commander Chakotay does not like me and I have often been suspicious of his true motivations. Perhaps I have let my opinion of him color your judgment.
"Perhaps." But Kathryn frowned as she began to wonder.
"Doctor! I’ll be back in an hour." Captain Janeway hopped off the bio-bed and walked over to the replicator with the sheet wrapped around her. The uniform had materialized before the EMH made it out of his office and over to her.
Kathryn held up a hand to silence him. "Not now, Doctor. I have to check on the ship. I can’t afford to leave us vulnerable if the deflector shorted out any other critical systems."
She pulled the garments out of the replicator and walked toward the attached en suite wondering why she had explained herself to him. As captain she wasn’t accustomed to doing that. Fortunately the stubborn look faded from his expression.
"Very well, one hour. I can’t possibly hope to put Seven’s mind back in her body without you here."
"I understand. Coming, Seven?"
Janeway snickered under her breath.
An hour later Janeway was back as promised and lying fuming on the bio-bed while the doctor poked and prodded. Her thoughts weren’t on him, she was too involved in the internal debate going on in her head and he seemed to have adjusted to her unique way of speaking with Seven.
I thought you found this amusing, Captain?
"Well, now I just feel like my head is going to explode."
The pain of her headache had worsened and the noise of having two people inside her head made Janeway feel like she was losing her grasp on reality. She was continuously bombarded by graphic images of discussions with crewmen she hadn’t spoken to, as well as her own thoughts on ship’s business. It was eerie. Seven’s thoughts were so clear it was like viewing moving pictures on a screen. On top of all that for the last twenty minutes she had been concerned with a point two percent drop in energy to the replicators on deck five.
Kathryn hadn’t even known there was an energy fluctuation in the replicator system.
But I did, Seven pointed out helpfully.
"Is this how it was in the Collective? I can’t hear myself think!"
It is confusing for me as well, Captain, and no it wasn’t like this before. In the Collective there are trillions of minds speaking at once. They become like white noise and no individual thoughts were distinguishable. This is much more…unsettling.
"You can say that again!"
"Hmm, did you say something, Captain?"
"I wasn’t talking to you."
Kathryn was being testy with the EMH, but couldn’t seem to help it. For that reason, she finally sat up and addressed him directly. "Doctor, do you have anything yet?"
"I’m afraid not, Captain. I know we need to devise some type of conduit between your mind and Seven’s body but at the moment I’m at a loss as to how such a thing would work or even how to begin designing it for that matter."
Janeway’s face took on an absent look and he realized she was listening to the other voice inside her head. It would make a fascinating paper if the two consented to be interviewed later.
"That’s a great idea, Seven. What do you think, Doctor?"
Janeway rolled her eyes. "Sorry. I keep forgetting you can’t hear her. Seven suggested you try working with Lieutenant Torres since this situation appears mechanical as much as medical."
"That is a good idea. I’ll consult her immediately."
"In the meantime, I’m headed to my quarters."
Janeway silenced him quickly. "Doctor, there really is no reason for me to be here right now. I’m only a hail away if you and B’Elanna come up with something and right now I can’t even think with this headache."
"Headache? Why didn’t you say something earlier?"
"I…just assumed it was normal considering the circumstances."
"The next time you find yourself in need of a diagnosis you could just ask," he muttered tersely. He retrieved a device from a nearby shelf and quickly attached it behind the captain’s right ear. "There, how’s that?"
The pain diminished to a tolerable level and she felt her body relax. "Better."
"A cortical suppressant. You’ll still be able to hear your…guest… but without the discomfort."
"Thank you, Doctor. Please call me as soon as you have something."
He looked like he wanted to argue but wisely gave in. "Very well, Captain."
Kathryn’s only thoughts were on a hot bath and her bed, but she found herself unaccountably shy about disrobing. Seven was fully conscious inside her head and the captain wasn’t in the habit of bathing in front of her crew, strange circumstances notwithstanding. She was also aware that Seven was privy to her every thought and tried to keep her discomfort at a manageable level by searching for a diversion.
Captain, is it wise to ingest a caffeinated substance this late?
"It’s fine, Seven. My body is used to it." A sudden thought occurred to her and Kathryn asked with the trace of a smile, "Or are you worried you won’t like it?"
She knew she was right when Seven responded snidely, It is your body.
Kathryn took the mug from the replicator and gently sniffed the beverage before taking the first sip. She felt a shifting in her mind that was wholly unfamiliar, yet easily placed. Seven was curious about her reactions. Janeway allowed her enjoyment of the slightly bitter smell to envelop her senses for a moment. A small sip and she closed her eyes as the velvety liquid slid down her throat.
I believe I am beginning to understand. Seven sounded surprised, though how that was possible when Janeway couldn’t hear her she didn’t know. Sipping coffee is an erotic experience for you.
Kathryn coughed and was grateful she’d only had a small taste. "What? No! I just like it!"
Suddenly finished with the coffee, Janeway dumped the mug into the replicator and decided it was time to brave the bath after all.
I will try not to observe as you bathe, Captain.
Janeway fought the urge to cough again and suddenly decided that formalities seemed ludicrous at that point. "Call me Kathryn. Let’s just get it over with, shall we?"
Kathryn felt impossibly nervous as she began to undress in her bedroom. She tried to do so without looking at her own body, knowing Seven would see everything she did. Janeway was surprised to find that her fingers were shaking as she knotted the cotton robe.
The idea of my watching excites you. Seven’s realization made Kathryn want to deny it, but she found that difficult with Seven in her head. Time for a deflection.
"I’m just not accustomed to bathing in public."
I am hardly the public, Kathryn.
Kathryn sensed that Seven didn’t believe her excuse, but there was something else going on. The young woman seemed far too interested in the captain’s personal hygiene for mere curiosity. Choosing to let it go for the moment Janeway concentrated on getting through the night one step at a time and that meant taking a bath. She didn’t know how long this situation would last and she could hardly run around the ship smelling like she’d slept under a bridge.
With the water finished running, Janeway closed her eyes and slipped the robe from her shoulders. As it pooled at her feet, she stepped into the water and sank back to rest her head on the edge of the tub. A long sigh of pleasure slipped from her lips and she felt the echoing surge of satisfaction from Seven’s mind.
This is…not irrelevant!
"Indeed it is not," Kathryn chuckled.
She knew this was Seven’s first bath and wanted her to enjoy it as much as she did. Maybe when this crisis was over Kathryn would see that Seven got her own quarters with a bathtub. With those thoughts running around in her head Kathryn leaned over and picked up a washcloth. She soaped it liberally and began to run the cloth over her arm. Starting from the tips of her fingers, she drew the fabric slowly over her flesh, feeling goose bumps arise as she slid the length, concentrating on the sensations for Seven’s sake. She delighted in the feel of Seven’s growing wonder and enjoyment.
Kathryn ran the cloth over her breasts and began to feel something else. Her breath was coming in small pants and her eyes were closed with her head tipped back. Both of them were becoming aroused. Kathryn’s nipples hardened at the realization and she sensed Seven gasp. Fire built steadily in her loins and a hand started for the juncture of her legs.
At the last moment Kathryn realized what she was doing and snatched her hand away, sending water surging over the side of the tub. This bath was over.
"Seven, it’s late and I need to get some sleep."
The former drone made no response as Janeway climbed out of the tub, quickly dried off and headed into the bedroom in search of her nightwear. Kathryn slipped the navy silk nightgown over her head trying to keep her thoughts empty. Maybe when they woke up the doctor would have the answer she so desperately needed before she let her true feelings for Seven slip forward where she could see them.
"Good night, Seven," Kathryn said determinedly. "Computer lights out."
The soft tongue sliding against hers chased all other thoughts and sensations from Kathryn’s mind. All she could taste was Seven surrounding her, consuming her. She felt gentle hands at her throat but had lost the capacity to consider their actions until cool air touched her skin. Seven was undressing her.
Kathryn’s gasp was caught in Seven’s mouth. Seven swallowed the sound and Kathryn felt her heart rate accelerate, pounding ferociously in her chest. Clothing was quickly removed and Kathryn directed Seven gently over to the bed. She could see the wild look in her lover’s eyes and wanted to slow things down a little knowing this was Seven’s first time.
Her nipples hardened in arousal, aching to be touched. She gazed down at the nude woman lying on her mattress, displayed so openly, so trustingly. The sight of Seven’s perfect body, legs slightly spread, arms open and beckoning, stirred something possessive in her.
My lover, she thought, dizzy at the realization. My love. My Seven.
Kathryn slid into Seven’s arms, groaning at the sensation of naked skin on skin. "I want you so much it hurts."
Her hands stroked Seven’s neck, gliding down to her shoulders before moving lower, closer to Seven’s full breasts with each caress. Seven arched into the sensation, the cries of pleasure driving Kathryn to distraction. Her clitoris was swollen to the point of pain, but she forced herself to focus on Seven’s need.
"I’m going to touch you, darling. I’m going to make love to you."
Seven’s hands clutched at her shoulders encouraging her to hurry, but Kathryn wouldn’t be rushed. She wanted to remember every sound, every sensation. She wanted to remember the way Seven flung her head back and clenched her eyes shut at the searing pleasure raging through her body.
Planting kisses along Seven’s face and neck, she moved slowly down her body until she could take a diamond hard nipple into her mouth. Hands came up as Seven gasped, holding Kathryn against her. Kathryn tightened deep inside, containing through sheer willpower the orgasm that wanted to burst loose. She grasped Seven’s other nipple in her free hand and pinched down. The reaction was astonishing. Seven cried out loudly and thrashed her head back and forth on the pillow.
"Yes, Kathryn! Oh, it is so much!"
Blood pounded in her head and Kathryn felt herself coil tighter from the sounds Seven was making. She let go of Seven’s other nipple and replaced it with her mouth, sliding her freed hand lower, skimming past flexing abdominal muscles and over fine hair. Kathryn parted soft folds that were slippery with arousal. Seven’s hips rose, instinctively seeking her touch. Kathryn felt the stiffened shaft with the barest of touches, not willing to give Seven the pressure she needed to finish just yet.
Lower she felt Seven’s entrance, open and ready for her gentle invasion. That feeling caused Kathryn’s own need to surge up, strong and insistent. She pressed her distended clit against the strong muscle of Seven’s thigh to ease the ache even as she slid slowly inside.
Kathryn wanted to plunge deeper, she wanted to take Seven, claim her. Once inside she took a long, shuddering breath and pulled back slightly to look into newly opened eyes. Slowly, she began to rock back and forth, setting up a rhythm that Seven’s hips countered. Seven’s eyes closed again and she moved faster, seeking what seemed to be just out of reach.
"Seven! Look at me."
Full breasts moved in time with Seven’s thrusting hips, but her eyes opened obediently. "Please, Kathryn. I need…"
Kathryn gasped at the unfettered desire gazing at her. She felt her own impending storm and voiced the question she knew would drive Seven’s desperate arousal higher. "Do you need to come in my mouth?"
The naked want in that cry was like a blow to Kathryn’s belly and drove the breath from her lungs. Quickly, she slid lower and softly tongued the length of Seven’s clitoris, flicking the reddened tip. Seven lunged harder and Kathryn wrapped her arms around her thighs to keep from being dislodged. Then she took Seven fully into her mouth and sucked as she swirled the flat of her tongue rapidly around the swollen bundle of nerves.
Seven came instantly. Her hips lifted once before a scream tore through her and her body began to convulse. Kathryn stayed with her, stroking her until the last of the tremors passed through the slender frame. It was only as the last of them faded that Kathryn felt the spasms between her legs and she realized what had happened. She had come just from the sound of Seven’s pleasure.
Long arms reached for her and Kathryn moved into the embrace. Tucked tight under Seven’s chin Kathryn realized what had been there in front of her all along. Without love, duty was meaningless. Without Seven, Kathryn had nothing. They had taken the first step together. Now they had the rest of their lives to build their own precious memories.
"I love you, too, Seven."
Had his actions been deliberate after all?
Perhaps not, Kathryn. It is possible he was only reacting to what he perceived as a positive outcome.
Kathryn had felt tears gather in her eyes at the way Seven had been treated. It was hard to conceal how she felt about the young woman then and it would have come out had anger not overrode all else.
"Well, I don’t agree! You don’t…no one deserves to be treated like that."
Something of her true emotions must have come through. Kathryn could have sworn she detected a gentle, mental, caress before Seven said, Thank you.
The words were tender and contained more emotion than she expected to ever hear from her friend. Her heart did a slow roll before kicking her in the lungs and reminding her to breathe.
"Doctor to Captain Janeway."
She took a moment to gather herself. "Janeway here."
"Sorry it’s so late, but we’re ready down here. We can get started right away unless you’d prefer to perform the transfer first thing in the morning."
A quick check showed it was well into beta shift. Janeway didn’t know how the time had gotten away from them so effectively but knew Seven was in complete agreement.
"We’ll be right there."
As it turned out the procedure went exactly according to plan. Tuvok and the doctor had held Seven’s body up in front of the alcove. When the Borg technology registered the contact with her receptor nodes she went rigid in the signature regeneration stance and stood on her own.
B’Elanna’s regeneration interface device was attached to the small of the captain’s back. It operated by tapping directly into the nerve centers at the base of her spine. When Kathryn stepped back against the alcove she felt a surge of electricity that caused her own form to go rigid, but it wasn’t actually painful. Next the doctor had attached the electrodes to both Janeway and Seven. Then the transfer began, and it was painful. Kathryn had gasped at the tearing sensation and was so focused on breathing through the pain it was over before she realized.
She was sent to her quarters by Voyager’s Chief Medical Officer, with firm orders to rest for the next two days. Seven would have to regenerate for twenty-four hours. So it was that twenty-three hours and thirty minutes later Kathryn sat quietly thinking in her chair by the viewport.
Surprisingly, she felt empty without Seven’s comments and way of looking at any given situation. But as much as her thoughts went round and round about what had transpired in the last few days, she kept coming back to their more intimate conversations. Seven’s relentless questions about her past relationships, including the rifling through her sexual memories was something she just couldn’t put aside. Then there were the subsequent questions about same gender pairings. Kathryn had known for a long time that she had feelings for Seven, but it never occurred to her before that Seven might feel something in return. Now she had to wonder.
The possibility made her sit up straighter and she went back over every word that had passed between them. In the end Kathryn decided it was more than she had initially thought. She had the distinct impression that Seven knew how Kathryn felt and was trying to get her to admit it.
Captain Janeway suddenly found herself on the horns of a dilemma. Did she want to admit her feelings? Was part of the attraction the secret desire, the ability to fantasize about a crewmember? Kathryn quickly dismissed that idea. Seven was much more than just some random crewmember. She was unique and there was no doubt Kathryn loved her completely, but was it enough?
The chime to her quarters sounded and with an impending sense of doom Kathryn knew who the visitor would be. For all of two seconds she considered not answering. The notion was quickly discarded as the chime went off again. If she didn’t answer Seven would eventually let herself in anyway.
Seven strode quickly through the doors and headed directly for her. Blue eyes burned with an intensity Kathryn had never seen before. She stopped only a half step away, staring down at Kathryn where she sat in her favorite chair.
Kathryn could see the intimate knowledge and hope that flared in cerulean eyes. Irrational fear flooded her and adrenaline raced through her veins. Bravely, she tried to ignore the fear and strove to appear ignorant. She swallowed hard before she could get the word out.
"You have feelings for me."
It wasn’t a question. Janeway could see the glint in Seven’s eyes, daring her to deny it. "Of course; I care about all the members of my crew."
Seven actually snorted in disgust at the response before dropping down on one knee beside her. Kathryn’s brow went up in surprise. She’d never heard that particular sound from her former drone crewman and certainly never seen her in such a position.
"No. That is a diversionary tactic that I will not allow. You care for me as more than a crewman or even a friend. I know this."
Suddenly Kathryn remembered how Seven had so callously accessed her more intimate memories and she began to grow angry.
"How do you know that? Did you access my memory again while I was unconscious? I told you there are such things as boundaries."
"I promised you I would not do such a thing again and I haven’t." Seven’s bosom heaved as her ire increased until it easily matched the captain’s. "How can you think this of me? I gave you my word!"
Kathryn felt the anger ebb away and was left with uncertainty. "If you didn’t…then how did you…?" Janeway rolled her eyes as she realized she’d just been played and by a Borg at that. Without trying to admit her feelings she had done precisely that. The triumph showing on Seven’s face was living proof.
Seven’s voice softened to a whisper. Her hand came up to gently touch Kathryn’s cheek. "I didn’t know for certain that you returned my love until this very second. Many times, while our minds were one, I felt that you were trying to conceal something from me. In each of these instances it was during a time we were engaged in intimate discussions. It was only as I regenerated in the cargo bay that the possible reason for this subterfuge came to me."
"And you wanted to see if you could catch me off guard, get me to admit something?" Kathryn couldn’t stay upset with Seven, as much as she wanted to. She felt a small smile tug at the corners of her lips.
"Seven," Kathryn hesitated to wound the younger woman by a casual utterance of words her heart resisted giving a voice. Still, it was necessary to let Seven know the truth before she went too far. "You know I can’t get involved with a member of my crew."
"Even if you want to?"
Janeway took a breath, preparing to give Seven the same explanation she’d given herself for so many months. "Where do I start? I’m the captain, so I have to be seen as being above such things. The crew might…"
Seven placed a finger over Kathryn’s lips to stop the well-rehearsed speech. "I considered all of these arguments as I walked to your cabin."
"Oh? And what conclusions did you reach?"
"That they are all irrelevant." Seven began to idly trace the line of Kathryn’s lips, causing a delicate shudder to ripple through the small frame.
"So…" Kathryn took a second to clear a suddenly dry throat. "So…what is relevant?"
Seven leaned forward slowly. Her eyes were pinned to Janeway’s and she waited every possible moment, giving the captain time to pull away if she would. Instead, she heard a whimper and then Kathryn was rising to meet her halfway. Their lips met before they pulled away a hairsbreadth. Kathryn’s eyes sought hers, as though searching for confirmation that Seven really wanted this.
Seven only smiled before she claimed soft lips again. When they finally did separate both were breathing heavily.
"I’m sorry," Janeway said. "This is all going a little fast for me. Part of me wonders if this isn’t just something you’re feeling because of what we shared."
"Kathryn, I loved you long before our thoughts merged."
"You did?" Unaccountably, Janeway felt shy and was having difficulty meeting Seven’s eyes. It had been a long time since she’d been involved and usually she was the one initiating any romantic gestures.
"The question now," Seven posed, "is what will you do? Will you spend the rest of your life alone, apart from the community you lead? Or will you embrace your own happiness; willingly acknowledge to your crew that you have passionate feelings for another? Kathryn, will you love me?"
"Oh, I do. You have to know that I do."
Seven smiled brightly and Kathryn felt like the sun had come up just for her. Her heart soared at the expression and she never wanted to be the one to cause that smile to dim.
"Then take this first step with me. Be my guide in this as you have in so many areas before."
"Seven, do you even know what you’re asking?"
"I am asking you to show me about love, that there is more to us than duty. Be my life, Kathryn."
Seven held her hand out, waiting for Kathryn to make a decision. She had never felt more alive or more frightened than she did in this instant. Would Kathryn accept? Ultimately both had to agree.
When Kathryn reached out and took her hand, Seven released a single sob of happiness and pulled Kathryn into her arms. For only a second she indulged in the feeling of having Janeway pressed against her, arms wound tightly about her neck. Then suddenly she pulled away and slipped both arms under the lithe form, lifting Kathryn into her arms.
"Where are we going?" Janeway asked, teasing lightly.
"Into the bedroom. Did you have another destination in mind?"
"No, darling. I think that sounds wonderful."
Seven seemed to lose patience as soon as they crossed the threshold into the bedroom. She allowed Kathryn’s legs to slip to the floor and pressed the small form back against the wall. Her hands explored Kathryn’s arms softly, from her shoulders to her forearms and back again. Kathryn could feel firm breasts against her chest and goose bumps erupted over her arms. The room was in darkness but the feral look in the blue eyes was clear. Full lips looked swollen, glinting with moisture as Seven ran her tongue over them.
"What are you waiting for? Kiss me."
Kathryn’s mouth went dry at the look of approval in those flashing eyes. Seven had wanted Kathryn to ask. Janeway didn’t have time to wonder as the blonde head lowered. Lips softer and sweeter than she could have imagined pressed against hers. Kathryn had dreamt of this moment for so long she couldn’t stop the groan the burst loose from her chest. The parting of her lips gave Seven the opportunity she needed and her tongue sought entrance. It wasn’t the first time they had kissed, but it was the prelude to their first time together and the thought set Kathryn on fire.